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Islanders: Did Kieffer Bellows Do Enough In The AHL This Year?

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24: Kieffer Bellows poses for a portrait after being selected 19th overall by the New York Islanders in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24: Kieffer Bellows poses for a portrait after being selected 19th overall by the New York Islanders in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images) /
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With the AHL season officially closed, we’ll look at New York Islanders prospect Kieffer Bellows and if he did enough to get a shot at the NHL in 2020-2021.

Today, the AHL decided that their season would come to a close. It was a harsh reality for that league and the hope is that the NHL doesn’t have to follow the same direction that their minor league system did.

This year, the New York Islanders AHL affiliate finished with a 23-33-5 record in 63 games and Kieffer Bellows was the leader in both goals (22) and points (31). Bellows played in 52 games in the AHL this past year and was much more productive than his first year as a pro.

In year one, he had just 12 goals and 19 points in 73 games. With 31 in 52, he was on pace for 44 points over a 73 game season. This year, he even saw a brief stint in the NHL playing eight games and putting up three points, including his first NHL goal.

The question that I wanted to try to answer, is if Bellows has done enough in Bridgeport to merit a real shot at playing in the NHL every day. If we operate under the assumption that the NHL will allow compliance buyouts in order for the team to remain under the cap threshold for 2020-2021, you’d have to imagine Andrew Ladd’s gone and likely one of Johnny Boychuk or Leo Komarov can get the boot as well.

If I had to bet, I’d imagine that the second choice would be Boychuk due to his big $6 million cap hit. Leo Komarov could either be used on the fourth line if Matt Martin isn’t brought back or as the 13th forward.

We’ll assume that Martin re-signs for the veterans minimum, because that seems most likely, so the lines will probably look something like this:

Lee – Barzal – Eberle

Beauvillier – Nelson – Bailey
______ – Pageau – _____

Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck

As the roster currently sits today, that leaves Michael Dal Colle, Leo Komarov, Kieffer Bellows, and Oliver Wahlstrom fighting for those last two spots as Derrick Brassard is as good as gone with an expiring contract.

The Islanders have been running Leo and MDC out there for most of this year and it hasn’t gone well at all. Before Pageau’s arrival, the third line was a black hole. In 53 games, Dal Colle has just 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) while Komarov has 14 points (4 goals, 10 assists) in 48 games.

With Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and JG Pageau able to kill penalties do you really need to have Leo in the lineup every night? I’d argue that you don’t. As for MDC, he’s kind of just a warm body that they put out there for 11 minutes a night. He’s not a net positive or a net negative really, he kind of just exists there on that line.

Ideally, Bellows is getting one of those spots on that third line. He’d have a much better chance at producing playing with a JG Pageau who is coming off a career-high of 26 goals this year. I don’t think it’s fair to expect Pageau to put the same exact numbers up that he did this year but he’s a more consistent offensive player than Derrick Brassard and Leo Komarov who Bellows played with during his short stint with New York.

At 22 years old, I’m not exactly sure what Bellows could learn with yet another year in the AHL with Brent Thompson. I’d imagine riding shotgun with Brock Nelson or JG Pageau would do him much better.

I’d like to think that both Wahlstrom and Bellows could play on that line together but if I had to settle for one, I think as of this moment Bellows is more NHL ready.

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So yes, to me Bellows did enough in the AHL putting up 22 goals. I think he should be in the lineup next year if the roster looks similar to what it does right now, which is expected. He’s got the size and the talent, it’s just a matter of if the organization believes in him.

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